The Global Spirits Masters (GSM) has just announced the results of its judgment on Cognac. Eleven Cognacs were awarded the coveted ranking of “Master” medals. Nearly a third of entries were scored 90 points out of 100 or better.
The GSM is an international competition that rates spirits on a scale of 100 points in each major beverage category. Judging is divided into 21 separate competitions to ensure that each category is judged by specialist judges who are considered experts in this spirit.
Judges are chosen from journalists, retail buyers, bartenders and educators. The competition awards gold and silver medals – the best minds being designated as masters. The best spirit in each category is designated Master of Taste.
The best Cognac, designated Master of Taste, went to Cognac Frapin Chateau Fontpinot XO. Cognac Frapin has won a total of four Master medals, one for each of its entries in the competition. Brandy Classics also won four Master Medals for its Hermitage Cognacs.
Frapin produces its Cognac from a 600 hectare estate in the heart of Grand Champagne. Still family owned, the estate can trace its activity in the Cognac industry through 21 generations back to 1270.
Frapin Château Fontpinot is an XO cognac, which means that the youngest spirit in the blend is at least 10 years old. In reality, the blend includes considerably older spirits. It is bottled at 41% ABV.
It is a complex, smooth and extremely well-balanced cognac that offers the nuanced complexity you expect from an aged cognac.
On the nose, it offers the classic “rancio” aromas of leather and furniture wax with distinctive aromas of dried fruit, accompanied by almond and hazelnut, as well as some sweet notes of marzipan.
On the palate, the “rancio” notes are even more pronounced and are accompanied by floral notes and dried and candied fruits, in particular golden grapes, peach and apricot and candied orange zest with a hint of marmalade.
There are additional notes of vanilla and well-seasoned oak, as well as milk chocolate. The finish is long, smooth, layered and complex. This is an exceptional and even more outstanding cognac, its price is usually around $150/700ml bottle. It’s hard to find in the US, but is available from internet sellers like Cognac Expert in France or direct from the chateau.
In the VSOP Premium category ($40-$75), two Cognacs won a Master medal: Honor Cognac Company, Honor VSOP Cognac and Cognac Frapin VSOP.
Honor Cognac, from the house of Orsay, is a new brand and is under the aegis of Birkedal Hartmann. The latter is above all a Bordeaux merchant who is also active in the cognac sector.
In the VSOP Super-Premium ($75-$100), top honors went to Sire Spirits, Branson Cognac VSOP Royal.
The Cognac is aged for a minimum of four years and is sourced from vineyards throughout the Cognac region, although it is primarily from the Petit Champagne and Borderies appellations. It is aged in oak barrels mainly from Allier, Limousin and Tronçaise.
The Cognac has a distinctive aroma of well-seasoned oak wood accompanied by pronounced floral and fruity aromas. On the palate there are spicy notes of cinnamon and a touch of clove, along with vanilla, dried fruit, especially apricot and golden raisin, and some herbal elements.
In the atypical Single Estate VSOP Cognac category, the only winner of a Master Medal was Cognac Hermitage, Cognac Grande Champagne Hermitage 10 years.
Hermitage is a UK based company merchant which sources and bottles exceptional Cognacs.
The Cognac is produced from a combination of Ugni blanc and Folle blanc grapes and aged for a minimum of 10 years.
It offers flavors of tropical spices, coffee and tropical fruits, especially mango and a little pineapple, as well as toasted nuts. It is aged in Limousin oak barrels in a cellar with high humidity.
This is another cognac that can be hard to find in the US, but can be ordered direct from Brandy Classics in the UK. It sells for around $75/700ml bottle.
There were two Master medalists in the Ultra-Premium XO Cognac category ($125+): Courvoisier XO and Chateau Frapin XO VIP.
Courvoisier XO is aged for a minimum of 10 years, although the average age of Cognacs in the final blend is closer to 20 years.
It is a rich and complex cognac that offers the layered complexity you expect from an aged cognac. On the nose, there are aromas of burnt sugar and molasses with notes of candied lemon zest, ginger, apple and a little pear, as well as cinnamon and a little black pepper.
On the palate, there is a distinctive note of dark chocolate and coffee, as well as some cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is long, sweet, a bit dry, with lingering notes of apple and mocha.
Hermitage Cognac also won Master medals in the XO Single Estate category for its Hermitage 25 years Grande Champagne Cognac as well as two Master medals in the Vintage-Single Estate category for his Hermitage 1975 Grande Champagne Cognac and Hermitage 1972 Petite Champagne Cognac. Frapin won another master medal in the Vintage-Single Cru for his Cognac Frapin Millésime 1995.
According to Brandy Classics, the Grande Champagne Hermitage 25-year-old cognac is produced on a 62-acre estate around the town of Segonzac. He describes the Cognac as “wonderfully complex”, which initially offers “a deep smell of kumquats” with “aromas of tangerine and orange peel” in addition to notes of “nutmeg, toasted almond, vanilla, coffee and melon”.
Cognac Grande Champagne Hermitage 1975 was produced in the region of Saint-Preuil in the center of Grande Champagne. It is extremely rare with less than one barrel available. According to Brandy Classics, it offers aromas of “thyme, rosemary, white truffle pork cracker, and kumquats.”
The Cognac Hermitage 1972 Petite Champagne, on the other hand, is more floral with aromas of “candied fruit, hay, hummus and coconut”, while on the palate it presents notes of “fresh bread, saffron, candied fruit and white truffle”.
Cognac Frapin Millésime 1995 is the latest addition to the Millésime Frapin range. About 25 years old, he has just been released.
The Cognac GSM 2022 jury produced an exceptional set of Cognacs. These are some of the best in the world and most sell for less than $100 a bottle. If you’re passionate about Cognac, there are some great expressions here to explore.